Look at the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings as this lockout-shortened regular season draws to a close.
The top two teams look familiar — the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.
The third-place team in the East? It isn’t the Boston Celtics. It isn’t the Orlando Magic.
It’s the Indiana Pacers.
The long-suffering franchise has climbed to a 41-22 record, winning 11 of their 12 games in April — best in the NBA this month. We all knew the Pacers could have a strong 2011-12 campaign on the heels of their competitive playoff series with the Chicago Bulls last season, but how exactly did they get this good?
Danny Granger’s improvement. The one-time All-Star didn’t have a strong start to this campaign, shooting well below 50 percent, breaking up the offensive flow by jacking up his own shots, and leading many to wonder whether he really was buying into what Frank Vogel, now the team’s full-time head coach, was selling. Granger’s play down the stretch, however, certainly would s...